My brother is driving. I'm in the backseat at liberty to write. Dad, riding shotgun, shuffles through sheets of paper explaining stock valuations and physical therapy exercises.
The car is a 2015 Buick Lucerne with 62,000 miles on it and counting. Destination: Ludlow, Massachusetts, where my dad grew up, where he's from, where he still has family: his cousins, his aunt (who turns 88 in two days), his sister (who he hasn't seen in 25 years), his niece (likewise).
We left Belleville, Illinois, at 8 a.m. this morning, yours truly behind the wheel. Football (a.k.a. soccer) streams on satellite radio, channel 157, the European Championship tournament. This is the first round of the tournament, dubbed group play. Earlier, Russia knocked off Finland. Now, it's Turkey and Wales.
It's been awhile since I've been in a car's backseat. I'm enjoying it; it feels like a luxury. Like I'm flying on an airplane. What else is there to do but to read, to write? To describe, to explain, to tell?
At the first rest stop, my dad pointed at some new socks he was wearing.
Over this side And steel. Most moisture We’ve seen in months. Rusted linoleum Tractors cowed By the slender whim of God. Banks? There are no banks.
This is why you don’t wait. People gonna make mistakes, sure. But This is p’cisely why you never wait. Waitin’ for rain, for the aqueduct. Waitin’ for the war to end, For interest rates to move. Nobody in this family waitin’ for a goddam thing.
Well, sure we dropped a well. And dropped it, And dropped it. We found that, ah, cone of depression — Some bottles of dirty water. Our poor Mother, ya know. She loaned us udders of water, Buried deep down in her soul, like. Sandstone-lined. All she had. We was just children then.
So We gone back to readin’ the clouds. They’re beautiful really. Cirrus curling into nothing Way up there. Just ice crystals Casting down white light. There ain’t s’pose to be such a thing as white light. But I tell ya: I seen it.
I’m going on record with this Because I’m in plain need of an elegy. Sawbones gave me, oh, a few months. Don’t matter much. I came from this land And I’m going back to it. Now I’m telling you: I want a Viking’s funeral. If you can find ‘em, throw a thousand husks Of corn onto my pyre. Take fish from the hole I leave in the ice. Despite everything I’ve said, Regardless of whether there’s snow on the ground, Whether the crops rise, Whether anyone’s left to see me go.